Insights from BCC Research

Technology Finds Water Leaks Using Satellite Imagery

Posted by Clayton Luz on Mar 22, 2017 1:45:00 PM

Non-revenue water is water lost after it leaves the distribution facility and before it reaches the consumer. This lost water brings in no revenue, although it still costs money to collect and process. In many cases, this water loss is due to leaky pipes, although it may also be stolen through illegal connections or simply be unaccounted for through meter inaccuracies.

Twenty percent of the clean water piped into distribution systems globally is lost before reaching consumers, according to a BCC Research report. Each year, this amount equates to about 8.5 billion gallons of water.
Nana Lapham, BCC Research analyst, says, "Some regions may see hardly any water loss at all, whereas in others, the level of water loss is dramatic. Most developed countries have non-revenue water losses somewhere between 15% and 20%, with developing countries seeing a much higher water loss, up to 60% or more."
To manage water loss, there's a new technology on the horizon. Actually, it's a little higher than that, about 400 miles above Earth, to be precise. Based on technology used for detecting water on other planets, the new tool analyzes satellite imagery to detect leaks and non-revenue water.
Developed by Utilis, an Israel-based water management company, the tool offers leak detection that simultaneously covers thousands of square kilometers. The leaks are displayed in user-friendly GIS reports including accurate street locations, saving significant labor associated with finding leaks with current methods.
Two primary methods are used to manage non-revenue water around the world: smart water management systems and acoustic leak detection, Lauren Guy, co-founder of Utilis, notes in a column written for Water Online.
According to Guy, these methods are the best solutions available to manage non-revenue water. But they're fraught with downsides. The methods are hugely time-consuming and expensive when factoring in the number of discovered leaks relative to the big money it takes for infrastructure and equipment.
Utilis claims its noninvasive technique can identify more water leaks in the same amount of time as current non-revenue water solutions available to water managers.
The technology works as follows:
  1. A radar sensor acquires images.
  2. An algorithm prepares raw data for analysis, a process that includes the removal of noises caused by vegetation, high buildings, and metal objects.
  3. A sieve with the known spectral signature of treated water is used to extrapolate only the treated water leaks.
  4. Normalized data is presented graphically with findings displayed on a GIS web-based application. Field teams on the ground receive “leak sheets” generated by the system to confirm and repair the leaks.
According to Guy, a field crew of four people working with a standard acoustic process will uncover 1.76 leaks per day, on average. "By comparison, satellite-based technology allows one person to find 6.1 leaks per day, and the same location will be surveyed again in a matter of weeks.
"In contrast to usual acoustic technologies (hydrophones, loggers, correlators, high-sensitivity devices) that look for signs of water (mostly by sound), remote sensing enables utilities to look—for the first time—for the water itself," he writes.
The Utilis service is provided periodically, on a monthly, quarterly or half-year basis;
at the beginning of each period, Utilis presents a graphic and/or tabular Leakage Report containing location and estimated size of suspected leaks. The information is displayed on top Google Maps or Google Satellite layer.

Topics: Environment